I’m staying in Atlanta for the summer. It’s often hot as fuck out, so I’m stuck inside once in awhile, where I have cable for the first time in about 3 years. I haven’t taken much advantage of it since I’ve been reading, writing blog posts, and doing a lot of schoolwork, but last night I did.
Let me start by saying that I know making fun of MTV is pretty easy. It’s obvious that MTV isn’t cool, that it ruins a lot of the coolest things about youth culture, and that it exists to the detriment of young people’s development. Although I agree with everything he said, I get terribly embarrassed whenever I hear recordings of Jello Biafra bloviating about how much MTV sucks. Listening to someone making fun of MTV is like reading old punk lyrics. It’s just so obvious, you know? But I have to.
Anyway, I don’t ever watch it, but last night I did and it was unfuckingbelievable. I watched three hours of it with another advanced scholar of 80s and 90s pop culture, and we were completely astonished at how insane things have become on that network, even in comparison with the asinine drivel we remember having seen on it as teenagers. Seriously, it blew my mind. I had to write about it.
As I sit here and listen to the greatest hits of Huey Lewis and the News (a fuckin’ hipster, I am), I am reminded of a simpler time. A time when parents didn’t want their kids to be promiscuous drunks, when hardly anyone got naked in front of strangers for no reason, when MTV just played questionable music videos instead of outright misogynistic borderline porn, when it was the men who were wearing attire that nearly exposed their genitalia and humping inanimate objects (Aerosmith, The Cult, etc.) in order to shock the audience rather than women doing so to avoid shocking the audience by not doing it. MTV was tame back then. As it is now, there isn’t a minute that goes by on MTV that doesn’t contain at least two of the following:
- People having sex. And I don’t mean the implication that people are humping, I mean video of people actually doing it, or video of people talking about having actually done it.
- Horrifically embarrassing stereotypes. These usually involve some woman or member of a minority group caricaturing himself/herself for the amusement of the audience.
- Emotional abuse. Nearly every program on MTV revolves around one member of a couple/love triangle/love octagon or a contestant for someone’s love being betrayed, humiliated, or emotionally abused.
- Alcohol abuse. The producers of MTV’s shows all know that booze = drama. Who will fall on the floor screaming, get naked in public, get in a fight, or fuck a stranger on camera when they aren’t drunk?
- Tons of T&A. Since most MTV shows are short on substance, they need footage that will kill time but also keep people watching. What works better for that than footage of the seemingly endless parade of women willing to hang out with hardly anything on? Footage of these women’s faces is purely optional as long as there are boobs in the shot.
- Total debasement of the parent-child relationship. Parents on MTV are their kids’ drinking buddies, slaves, cheerleaders, enablers, and bank accounts, not authority figures. They’re there to bankroll the party, not to bum it out with their concerns for their children’s well-being.
Now that the parameters have been laid down, I’ll get to the shows. In the course of my MTV viewing experiment, I sat through an episode of A Shot at Love 2 with Tila Tequila, two episodes of The X-Effect, and two episodes of Date My Mom. I’ve also seen a few episodes of this season’s Real World recently. I don’t know which of these shows wins the Most Fucked Up Show on TV Award (previously held by The Swan), but all four are clearly produced by the devil (and I’m not just saying that because I had to sit through clips of Death Cab for Cutie on either side of the commercial breaks).
I’ll start with Tila Tequila’s show. The story, for those of you lucky enough to have escaped hearing about it, is that Tila Tequila, who is famous for being the filthiest animal on MySpace, is looking for a life partner. Tila Tequila is, quite simply, a sexbot. She was designed and built by strip club patrons who like ’em ambiguously beige-tan, petite, and dramatically reconfigured by plastic surgery, she was programmed by Joe Rogan and Doug Stanhope to be their freewheelin’, free lovin’, chick lickin’ dream girl, then she got her own show. Either that or she did all that shit to herself knowing what appeals to the average dude and the average brainwashed young “chick” in order to get her own show. In any case, she’s ridden uber-commercialized, hyper-sexualized vacuity from a simple page on a social networking site to her own show on MTV, from where she gets to project her warped idea of femininity, morality, sexuality, and “love” to the preteens of the nation.
Like I said earlier, Tila, the story goes, is looking for true love. No one older than 13 really believes that’s what’s going on, but that’s the producers’ and Ms. Tequila’s story and they’re sticking to it. OK, fine, but doesn’t The Bachelorette already exist? What sets this show apart from Rock of Love (other than Ms. Tequila having hair and boobs) or I Love New York (besides the fact that I Love New York had Chance, the funniest dude on TV since Murdoch from The A-Team)?
The twist is… get ready… Tila Tequila is bisexual! She likes to do it with men and women. So half of the contestants trying to win the heart of this evil robot, trying to make the most of their Shot at Love, are men, and the other half are women. The men are the same kinds of men you see on any show with a similar premise: vain ‘roid monkeys with egos to put Billy Zabka to shame who are there simply because they, just knowing that they deserve to be famous, are looking for some small-screen exposure to get them started in the business. The women are weird, though. Most of them are similar to the women on shows like The Bachelor, although they manage to project even less self-respect and class than those women do, but at least one or two of them are actual lesbians. They usually get kicked off first, though. Who wants real lesbians ruining the Maxim-esque fantasy?
That’s right, I said it. Most of the women on Shot at Love aren’t lesbians. They’re women who make out with other women to make men want to pork them. They’re women who want to get famous and are willing to make out with a chick on screen if it’ll get them closer to that goal. I know that almost everyone on reality TV is there because they want to get famous (sorry if I’m ruining the magic for anyone), but this is easily the most egregious example of it I’ve ever seen. I suppose pretending to be gay isn’t any worse than pretending to care about someone so you can be on TV, but the combination of the two is a bit much.
But that’s not all. On most of these reality TV love match shows, the producers hesitate to bluntly insinuate that the contestants are having sex with the prize, but not so in this case. (Which is funny, considering the fact that most of these shows are intended for adult audiences, while Tila Tequila is on a network with a very young audience.) The only way they could make it more obvious that Ms. Tequila is having sex with every single contestant would be if they had a ticker at the bottom of the screen that showed the number of them she’d bedded tick up every time she closed a door on a camera. Now, I don’t know if she and the contestants are actually all getting busy, but that’s most definitely what we’re meant to believe, and I honestly don’t doubt it. Everyone on the show is drunk constantly, they’re all the kinds of people who believe life revolves around fucking, and hardly anyone is ever fully clothed. MTV producers, in all of their reality programs, seem hell-bent on getting as many people to fuck as many different people as possible, and this show is no exception. That means the contestants are constantly ensconced in opulent surroundings, they’re pumped full of booze, they’re always expected to be dressed up in “sexy” (if your idea of sexy is a stripper’s outfit) clothes, and they’re routinely asked to participate in overtly sexualized activities (bathing suit photo shoots, massage lessons, etc.).
Tila makes her decisions on who to keep and who to bounce on one criterion: how in love with her she thinks the contestants are. Fuckin’ A. Narcissism deluxe. You see, the contestants on these shows are in a weird position. They get almost no sleep, they eat poorly, they’re drunk all the time, and they have absolutely no privacy. It’s no surprise that they end up a little emotionally vulnerable, which makes it easy for Ms. Tequila to use her sexuality (consciously or not) to manipulate them into thinking they’re in love. If she fails, they get the boot. The weird part is that these women who are pretending to be gay actually seem to develop feelings for Tila Tequila. I don’t know whether they’re actually in love with her or if their feelings are really just intense admiration for someone who has earned a black belt in sexual manipulation, but they seem pretty stricken, so it’s really kind of gross to watch them get emotionally abused on national television.
What bothers me about this show isn’t that people are being hosey, that people are engaging in thoughtless casual sex, and that people are buying into the idea that Tila Tequila is after true love. What bothers me is how manipulative the entire premise of the show is and how sanctimonious the message seems to be. Basically, MTV is telling us that if we don’t think fucking 30 strangers is the best way to find love, we’re closed-minded homophobes, real reactionaries. You know, because the fact that people are pretending to be gay or bisexual and giving the (young, impressionable) public disgusting, caricatured, one-dimensional representations of the members of those communities is no big deal. Because believing that there should be something to love other than liking to fuck someone is totally passe. Because the path to liberation for women is lined with random wieners and public same-sex make-out sessions. Because the way to determine whether someone is a worthy human being is to see whether you can use your sexuality to manipulate them into thinking they love you.
Yeah, that’s what we want to tell our impressionable young women and men. And we wonder where the Suicide Girls and sex-positivism come from.
To be continued…